There are very few things that I half-ass. I really try to whole-ass everything that I do. When I say that, I am not necessarily meaning that I put my full effort into what I do, but rather that I try to do things with a certain amount of fearlessness and ferocity.
To be clear, I am not really talking about big things…yet. In my life, this has manifested primarily in physical endeavors of almost insignificant magnitude. Like when I first started playing hockey at 15 years old and had no clue how to stop on hockey skates. I didn’t skate tentatively, with fear of falling; I threw my shoulder at the other players and reached my stick out for the puck, despite the fact that these actions inevitably ended with me splayed on the ice, spending critical game time trying to push myself back up. Or when I tried limburger cheese for the first time. I didn’t do it tentatively, I just grabbed the chunk of cheese and tossed in my mouth. Of course, living whole-assed like this means I had to live with the consequence of bruised knuckles and knees, and of fingers that smelled like crotch for a full day.
I’ve never considered this impressive because I think the risk involved in these things is minimal. Yet today I was reminded that this is atypical when a co-worker saw my bare, skirt-wearing legs (third day in a row of 60-degree temps in November!), pointed at the large bruise on my thigh, and said, “Ouch! How’d you get that?” My answer of “mountain biking” was met with some shock. I clarified that this is not typically something that happens in mountain biking, nor is it something that had to happen to me. However, on my first outing out on a fat bike at the Mississippi River Bottoms, I found myself putting my whole ass into the ride. When my guide and kindly bike-lender, Brandon, pointed out the first little pile of logs in the path and said, “You have two options: roll over it, or stop and walk over it. There’s totally nothing wrong with stopping,” I just kept rolling.
I generally tried to acknowledge my limits – several times Brandon said, “I’m going left to that jump, but you should stay right.” I listened and stayed right. We made it out to our turn-around point almost without me falling. When I did fall? It’s because I was pushing a heavy bike uphill on gravel and am a clumsy person, literally right by the road we turned around at. By this point, about 45 minutes and 7 miles into the ride, I was feeling comfortable. I was loving the perfect fall weather, and the fact that I was seeing things that I would not have seen had I just been riding city trails. We turned around.
One of the first log piles that we went over was one I had already encountered and smashed. This time it smashed me. My pedal caught on the back side of it, and I was taken down. Brandon, proving to be the best guide ever, didn’t rush over to me to offer me a hand. He just asked “You okay?” as I stood up, brushed myself off, and re-mounted his Pugsley that I had just beat up a bit. A few minutes later, he was yelling “AHHHHH THAT IS SO RAD,” because I had just crossed a thin wooden plank bridge (a “skinny”) 10 feet above a creek instead of taking the wider and safer bridge to the left. Of course, that was promptly followed by me losing control on a quick turn on sand and ending up once again on the ground, even more covered in dirt and leaves.
Throughout the ride, I had marveled at how nimble a person on a bicycle can be. There were countless spots where there were trees very close on both sides, and both Brandon and I deftly maneuvered between them with ease. I was just thinking about how exciting it was that we were doing this, and we were on a new stretch of trail that ran really closely to the river, and that amazed me, and we had just passed a group of people that Brandon knew and were about to lap them because they had new people and were going slowly, while I, the newbie, was just crushing it. And then I came to trees planking the trail and took the turn between them too quickly and clipped the one on my left with my handlebar,
which sent me flying. I don’t really understand how it happened, but I found myself going over the (relatively low) cliff towards the river. I managed to find a ledge to catch myself on and stand on, so I didn’t actually take a swim in the
mighty Mississip. Brandon heard me make a ridiculous noise, and this time when he looked back, he saw the weird spot I was in, and stopped to come give me a hand. Ultimately, my pride, and my need to whole-ass this thing (those close to me would argue that it’s really my refusal to ask for or accept help) had me shrugging him off and grabbing onto the small tree stump in front of me to drag myself back up on the bike.
I rode the rest of the way out a bit red in the face. You might assume that this was because I was embarrassed by this last fall, and, to be honest, a teeny tiny amount of that rosy face was due to that. But mostly it was sheer joy and amazement about what I had just done that had my heart racing and face glowing. Was my whole ass bruised for the next week? Yes. But I would have felt more embarrassed and shameful if I had half-assed that ride and not gotten a little bit dirty.